San Francisco Giants Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Gary Brown, OF, Grade B+: Future center fielder. Outstanding speed, doubles power with occasional home runs, not a big walk guy but makes contact and should continue to hit for a high average. Combined with strong defense, you have an impressive package of tools and skills.
2) Joe Panik, SS-2B, Grade B: I was very impressed with him in the Arizona Fall League. Line drive bat with gap power, good plate discipline, uses speed well on the bases, plays with fire. I think he can be an average defensive shortstop or above-average at second base. Nice tablesetter when combined with Brown at the top of the future Giants order.
3) Tommy Joseph, C, Grade B-: Borderline B: I like the way he improved his defense, also has standout power, hit 22 homers in High-A at age 19/20. Strike zone judgment remains poor and precludes higher grade, but he projects as a regular catcher if he can improve his approach.
4) Andrew Susac, C, Grade B-: Hasn't played yet, but based on what we saw in college, should be a steady defensive catcher with an above-average arm, producing power. We'll have to see if his pure hitting skills hold up.
5) Heath Hembree, RHP, Grade B-: Love the fastball, but slider, changeup ,and command are all works in progress. Potential to be a closer.
6) Francisco Peguero, OF, Grade B-: Never draws a walk, makes his living with speed, contact, gap power, and extreme BABIP. Might show more power in time. Good glove. Problem is that he has to hit .300 to be productive with his current approach, and if he's just hitting .280 he will hurt you more than he helps.
7) Eric Surkamp, LHP, Grade B-: Doesn't throw hard but has the statistical components of a power pitcher, excellent K/IPs and few hits, in the minors anyway. Was more tentative in the majors once the scouting reports got around and was hit hard. I think he can adjust and become a solid number four starter.
8) Kyle Crick, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-: High-ceiling arm, potential for four major league pitches with a workhorse body, still refining command. Could be the top prospect in the system in two years but isn't there yet.
9) Josh Osich, LHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-: Power southpaw, needs to prove his arm is healthy before ranking higher. Does he start or relieve?
10) Hector Sanchez, C, Grade C+: Held his own after unexpected major league promotion at age 21. Very good defense, switch-hitter with a chance to surprise people with the bat once he settles in. At worst he'll have a long career as a backup.
11) Clayton Blackburn, RHP, Grade C+: Major sleeper prospect from 2011 draft, showed excellent command in Arizona Rookie League (30/3 K/BB in 33 innings, just 16 hits), above-average velocity. Overshadowed in Oklahoma high school ranks by Archie Bradley and Dylan Bundy, but he's got a lot of talent himself.
12) Ehire Adrianza, SS, Grade C+: Strong defensive shortstop from Venezuela. Hit .300 in the California League but scouts continue to question his hitting. At age 22 he has time to improve. Utility guy at worst.
13) Mike Kickham, LHP, Grade C+: Easy to overlook due to 4.11 ERA in Low-A, but his FIP was much better and he has good stuff for a lefty, low 90s with good slider and workable changeup. Small adjustments and better luck could take him a long way in 2012.
14) Seth Rosin, RHP, Grade C+: University of Minnesota product looked great in the Arizona Fall League following decent campaign as Low-A swingman. Big breakout is possible in 2012.
15) Jarrett Parker, OF, Grade C+: Good athlete, shows power, speed, draws walks, fine glove. Main problem is strikeouts: he struggles with contact and batting average/OBP will suffer at higher levels without adjustments in his approach. Fourth outfielder profile right now.
16) Ricky Oropesa, 1B, Grade C+: Southern Cal first baseman saw power drop with switch to less-potent metal bats in college, but he has summer ball track record of good hitting with wood. Should hit for power but we'll have to see about batting average/OBP.
17) Joan "Not a Typo" Gregorio, RHP, Grade C: Ultra-projectable, posted 2.32 ERA in rookie ball although peripherals were less impressive. Potential to rank much higher next year once he gets more innings in. Tall and lean at 6-7, 180.
18) Jesus Galindo ,OF, Grade C: Switch-hitter stole 47 bases in Northwest League. Lacks power, needs to improve on-base skills to stick as a leadoff hitter.
19) Chris Marlowe, RHP, Grade C: Oklahoma State right-hander has above-average fastball, nasty curve, and incredible K/IP ratios in college. Could move quickly in relief if his command is sufficient.
20) Conor Gillaspie, 3B, Grade C: Forgotten man, but I think he can still surprise us. Gradually showing more power, makes contact, draws some walks, and has improved his defense. Doesn't have the power ceiling of Chris Dominguez (also a Grade C prospect) but is a steadier hitter with a higher floor.
OTHERS: Bryce Bandilla, LHP; Ray Black, RHP; Brett Bochy, RHP; Alex Burg, C-UT; Ryan Cavan, 2B; Hector Correa, RHP; Charlie Culberson, 2B; Chris Dominguez, 3B; Jake Dunning, RHP; Jake Dunnington, RHP; Adam Duvall, 3B; Kendry Flores, RHP; Leonardo Fuentes, OF; Stephen Harrold, RHP; Chris Heston, RHP; Chuckie Jones, OF; Roger Kieschnick, OF; Derek Law, RHP; Adalberto Mejia, LHP; Dan Otero, RHP; Shawn Payne, OF; Brett Pill, 1B; Angel Villalona, 1B.
The Giants system has thinned out but still has intriguing possibilities. The combination of Gary Brown and Joe Panik at the top of a batting order would look very nice. Tommy Joseph, Andrew Susac, and Hector Sanchez provide catching depth that would be the envy of most organizations. I really like Joseph's upside, but his plate discipline issues concern me. Susac was one of my personal favorites from the 2011 draft.
It is fun to watch Peguero play and his tools stand out, but can he really hit .300 in the majors with such an impatient approach? Parker, Galindo, and Chuckie Jones all have significant tools but they come with big questions too.
The Giants have a reputation for pitching development. While there are no sure-fire aces right now, there is a lot of raw material. Surkamp still has a good shot at being a number four starter and anyone giving up on him after a few rough starts in the majors is overreacting. Crick and Blackburn from the 2011 draft have plenty of upside but will need time. Hembree will get to the majors sometime in 2012 and projects as an overpowering closer if he can sharpen his command a bit more. College products Kickham and Rosin from the 2010 draft look like they can take a big step forward in 2012.